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Large Blast at Shiite Mosque Kills 30 in Baghdad

At least 30 people are dead following an explosion during Friday prayers outside a Shiite mosque in southern Baghdad. Shiites are celebrating the Islamic holy month of Muharram. Saturday is the holiest day of the year for them. The day marks the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, in a seventh century battle for leadership of the Islamic world. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government says that a pair of Indonesian journalists are missing in Iraq and may have been taken captive by uniformed gunmen.

Bush Nominates Negroponte As Intel Czar

President Bush has nominated John Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the first director of national intelligence. Bush said that Negroponte would be his principal adviser on intelligence issues and would have authority over the budgets of the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies. Negroponte also will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence and information sharing between agencies. The intelligence overhaul bill that Bush signed into law in December created the new position.

Iraqi Prisoner Died in Handcuffs During CIA Torture

A major expose by the Associated Press has revealed that an Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while suspended by his wrists, which had been handcuffed behind his back. The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that it had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances of the death were not disclosed at the time.

According to investigative documents reviewed by the AP, the prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging." It is unclear whether that position- which human rights groups condemn as torture–was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations. The Justice Department and the CIA refused to comment on the story.

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA’s so-called "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib -prisoners being held secretly by the agency. His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. According to the documents, Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information. The documents consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA’s Inspector General’s office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner’s arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi’s arms "didn’t pop out of their sockets." Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.

Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.

According to the documents seen by the AP, Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner’s handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.

The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him. The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" -faking it–and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But al-Jamadi was already dead.

ACLU Releases New Torture Docs on Afghanistan

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has released more documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act-these dealing with Afghanistan. According to the documents, members of an Army Special Forces unit allegedly punched, slapped, kicked and beat Afghan civilians in two villages southeast of the capital Kabul last May, prompting official complaints from two senior Army psychological operations officers who were present and said they witnessed the incidents.

The incidents are detailed in internal Army criminal files that the ACLU released yesterday. They also document other allegations of abuse in Afghanistan as recent as last year. In one strikingly similar event, the Army last year found about half a dozen photographs that depict masked U.S. soldiers standing with their weapons pointed at the heads of handcuffed and hooded or blindfolded detainees at a base in southern Afghanistan and, in one case, pressing a detainee’s head against the wall of a "cage" where he was brought for interrogation.

The photographs were found on a compact disc left in one of the unit’s offices. None of the photos have been published and an Army spokesman said yesterday that they are being withheld from release "to protect the privacy" of the Afghan victims.

The acts photographed in Afghanistan occurred without provocation between December 2003 and February 2004 and violated Army regulations, according to testimony in the Army documents. Members of the unit said they took the pictures for sport and also said they destroyed some images after photos appeared in the media of similar acts at the Abu Ghraib prison.The ACLU said some of the photos depicted "mock executions."

None of those involved in the seven new cases of alleged abuse were charged by the Army with criminal wrongdoing. Even though investigators found probable cause to charge another soldier in the unit with assault for punching a bound detainee in the back of the head, the documents do not indicate any punishment was imposed.

Crisis in Brazil Worsens After Killing of U.S. Nun

Thousand of soldiers have been deployed to an Amazon rainforest region where a US nun was shot to death last weekend amid violent attacks by loggers and ranchers against indigenous people trying to defend the areas vast natural resources. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cut short a visit to Suriname and rushed home yesterday, where he held an emergency cabinet meeting on the situation. Yesterday, Lula ordered the creation of two massive new rain forest reserves amid increasing pressure to protect the region. About 2,000 troops were mobilized to the area to restore order hours after thousands of people converged on the small Amazon town of Anapu to bury the bullet-riddled body of Dorothy Stang, the 73-year-old nun who was killed trying to defend the jungle where she had lived for decades.

Stang is a naturalized Brazilian originally from Dayton, Ohio. She was attacked Saturday. A witness said she began to read from a Bible before being shot at close range six times by two gunmen.The government says it hopes the troops will put an end to the violence in the area where slave-labor and illegal logging is rife. But environmentalists have said that the soldiers alone cannot solve the region’s problems. The government recently restored some logging permits in the area after loggers and ranchers staged protests by blocking roads. In the latest attacks, assailants gunned down the former president of the Rural Workers Union. In addition, a farmer was found shot to death in an area where Stang had been trying to establish a sustainable development project for poor Brazilians. Meanwhile, the Independent Media Center in Brazil reported this week that on Wednesday, Brazilian military police raided a homeless camp killing at least two members of the Homeless Movement. More than 800 people were arrested, including two Indymedia journalists, one of them from New York.

U.S. Soldiers to Be Given Ecstasy

Back in this country, the Food and Drug Administration has given the go-ahead for soldiers traumatized by their time in Iraq and Afghanistan to be offered the party drug ecstasy to help free them of flashbacks and recurring nightmares. The soldiers would take the drug as part of an experiment to see if MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, can treat post-traumatic stress disorder.


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